Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Goals

“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Hiring Remote Workers – Flashback Friday

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

So many CPA firms are looking for experienced team members. This group has always been elusive and continues to be so.

My advice has always been you must grow your own. Hire them out of college (from a pool of interns you have used) and invest significantly in their training and development. As they become experienced, ask them to stretch and take on more difficult work. Don’t let your current managers cling to work.

Here’s a flashback post – Be Open-Minded About Hiring Remote Workers. It references an HBR article that you should read.

  • Every business is having to transform today, no matter the size, it’s up to us to transform to meet those expectations.
  • Barry Melancon

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Strengths

“It’s good to strengthen weakness but better to strengthen your strengths. You hired them for their strengths. Why focus on their weaknesses?” – Dan Rockwell @LeadershipFreak

You hire them because they have an accounting degree, they received good grades and they interviewed well.

You teach and train them to perform the basic duties of an accountant working in public accounting. You provide lots of feedback on what they did wrong along the way.

Of course, they still have some areas where they need to improve. Now, it is time to downplay their weaknesses (no one is perfect) and devote time, energy, and dollars to building on their strengths.

Communication – Maybe they are a poor communicator but they can investigate and solve the most challenging tax issues. Maybe they are a great communicator but they dread having their nose to the grindstone for eight hours.

Problem-solving – Maybe they love the challenge to think outside the box and discover answers to specific challenges. Maybe, when they encounter a problem, they prefer to immediately seek the advice of their manager or other experienced person.

Some no-brainers in an accounting firm – Someone just has a knack for preparing corporate tax returns and another can quickly and accurately work their way throw a long list of individual tax returns. Someone seems simply loves working in the tax area and dreads being drafted to be on an audit team.

Discover each individual’s strengths by enlisting their help and then put people with different strengths on the same engagement team. Most engagement teams need a planner and a doer, etc.

Here’s a good article via Forbes that will help you begin focusing on each of your team members’ strengths.

  • Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
  • Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Training New Staff Virtually

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.” – Jack Welch

CPA firms have come a long way since last March. While working remotely is now a fact of life, some aspects of surviving in a virtual world have been more challenging. Firms are sometimes struggling with things like interviewing, orientation, onboarding and training.

In a recent discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board, the question was asked about how to train new team members virtually.

Jen Zarins, Director of Learning & Development for the Tidwell Group in Columbus, Ohio graciously allowed me to share her response. I hope you find it helpful in structuring your firm’s virtual training process.

We utilized zoom a ton.   We keep zoom meeting rooms open all day so they can ask questions for the first few days.   Monitoring their timesheets to verify they aren’t spinning wheels too long is needed in the beginning. We utilize Slack for instant messaging and it seems the recent college grads are way more comfortable sending IMs instead of emails or picking up the phone. The interns also have a Slack channel to ask questions. We have the seniors monitoring the channel and answering questions more timely than emails to folks who are in meetings.

Screen sharing and going thru their first couple sets of review comments instead of just them reading tone in them also helps. I think it is important that they show their face on the screen to read the expressions to see if they are really understanding. If they are shy on camera, we have found playing a few online games with zoom open was a great ice breaker.

  • The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.
  • Credited to Henry Ford

Friday, January 29th, 2021

Interviewing Experienced Candidates

“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world…but it requires people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney

It’s Friday again… already! It is time for a Flashback Post. This one is from January 2018.

Click here.

  • Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions and a healthy dose of curiosity. What do you think is the most important factor when building your team? For us, it’s personality.
  • Richard Branson

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Employee Engagement Matters – Flashback Friday

“Paychecks can’t buy passion.” – Brad Federman

To drive engagement, it’s simple, you have to be proactive.

Read this blog post from 2017 to learn about your three types of employees.

  • I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.
  • Walt Disney

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Adding New Clients – Flashback Friday

“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” – Steve Jobs

Adding new clients is always a challenge for CPA firms. However, some firms have a marketing machine, visible rainmakers, and obtaining new clients isn’t their biggest issue.

The challenge is being able to provide awesome client service to the rapidly growing client base.

Here’s a flashback post to help you with that challenge.

  • Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.
  • Sam Ewing

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Keep People Connected

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

Once again, Withum shares a great video. This one was shared with their entire team so that they continue to feel very connected to the firm and to each other.

What is your firm doing?

Click here to see the video.

  • As the world becomes a more digital place, we cannot forget about the human connection.
  • Adam Newmann

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Head of Remote

“The mark of higher education isn’t the knowledge you accumulate in your head. It’s the skills you gain about how to learn.” – Adam Grant

Last year at this time, could you ever visualize needing a person with the title Head of Remote Work?

Darren Murph is Head of Remote for a software firm that has been all remote since 2012. He lives near the Outer Banks in North Carolina and the 700 other employees of the firm are sprinkled around the country. He believes that his title might be the next evolution of the COO (or, in the CPA world, the Practice Manager).

He wears many hats and what he does daily sounds a lot like what a current CPA firm practice manager (firm administrator) does. Other companies are also hiring people who can help the company make the transition to remote work.

What about your firm? For most, it seems, it will become a hybrid model where some work remotely all the time and some work remotely part of the time. It might make sense to have someone devoted to helping and coordinating remote workers so that the firm’s practice manager has more time to focus on the on-site workers and over-all firm initiatives.

It would take somebody with an HR background, strong communication skills and they need to also be highly skilled at technology.

Maybe it is something you should be thinking about. Read the informative article via The Washington Post.

  • Soft skills get little respect, but will make or break your career.
  • Peggy Klaus

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Stealing Your People

“Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” – T. S. Eliot

It’s been going on for decades. There are people who get paid to help you steal people from your competitors.

Most of them are incentivized recruiters who use all types of methods to find experienced accountants who might be dissatisfied with their current employment status.

Recently, I heard a discussion among practice managers (firm administrators), that one firm did not feature their team members on their website because it made it easier for head-hunters to find people to contact and entice them away. Others agreed that it was a good idea.

I do not agree. I believe there are more benefits to featuring your team on your website than dangers. Featuring them is saying that you are proud of them and that they are qualified professionals taking care of your clients. It is also a boost for your administrative team. Your new hires (recent college graduates) are thrilled to be able to tell their relatives and friends that they should check out your website and see their picture.

If you are losing people to recruiters, it is your fault.

  • Maybe your culture isn’t clearly defined and protected.
  • Maybe you have an abusive partner/manager or two.
  • Maybe everyone is not living up to the firm’s published core values.
  • Maybe you aren’t keeping pace with salaries for your different levels of experience.
  • Maybe the communication within your firm is poor. It’s the one I hear the most about!
  • And maybe, as leaders, you simply are not saying, “Thank you for your efforts,” enough.

If you are losing good people, look in the mirror.

  • He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power.
  • Plato